A feast of jazz on offer in Rehoboth Beach next week

Jazz music has become synonymous with October in Rehoboth Beach.

This year, the dates to know are Thursday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 14. Musicians and audience members are coming from around the country to play and listen to the best of jazz.

The dilemma for many is whether to attend official performances organized by the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival and by the True Blue Jazz Festival, or unofficially, at one of the many participating area restaurants.

The primary venues for the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival are Cape Henlopen High School’s Performing Arts Theatre in Lewes and the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

The Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival has been attracting national and international artists since its inception in 1989. Their website proclaims, “Our festival is local and our artists are global.” An important aspect of “local” is the support the non-profit provides to Beebe Healthcare’s Tunnell Cancer Center. Part of the Rehoboth Jazz Festival’s mission statement is “Music for the Cure.”

The Artist of the Year for the festival is Matt Marshak, a guitar player and vocalist who pushes the limits of jazz and blues music. Indeed, although jazz continues to be the theme of this music extravaganza, other genres, such as Motown, doo-wop and even ballroom dancing, will be featured. The website for information is www.rehobothjazz.com.

The True Blue Jazz Festival, which runs concurrently, is totally dedicated to “straight ahead” or “mainstream” jazz. It was conceived six years ago as an independent jazz festival and is produced by Eddie Sherman and Peggy Raley.

Their names may be very familiar to locals for their own music, especially including songs from the Great American Songbook, and for the Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes, which is owned by Raley.

The two primary venues for the True Blue Jazz Festival are Clear Space Theatre in downtown Rehoboth and the Rehoboth Bandstand, adjacent to the boardwalk.

The Eddie Sherman Show featuring Peggy Raley, with special guests Cody Leavel on tenor sax and Griff Kamierczak on trumpet, will play on Thursday, Oct. 11, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Clear Space. Also in the band are two other musicians from the area: Mike McShane on drums and pianist Joe Holt.

“We look for local and regional jazz musicians with legendary talent, as well as nationally- and internationally-known jazz masters,” said Railey. “In the case of Cody Leavel, we have both local and national in one package. He went to Cape Henlopen High School, then studied at the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, and for four and a half years traveled with the Glen Miller Orchestra! Now he’s back in the area again.”

Railey added, “We’re also very proud of our Youth Appreciation Night. Selected by local band teachers, these young jazz musicians will open our Festival at Bethany Blues in Lewes on Wednesday, Oct. 10. It’s always a packed event.”

Shades of Blue is another favorite local jazz band that will be featured on the Clear Space stage during a special True Blue Women of Jazz Concert on Friday, Oct. 12. The all-women quartet comprises Christy Taylor on keyboards, Stephanie Shelton on sax, Cherisse Taylor on drums, and vocalist Elaine Foster. They are opening for the nationally-renowned powerhouse trio 3Divas.

To learn more about True Blue Jazz Festival headliners (including Wycliffe Gordon and Lipbone Redding) and special events (including a five-hour marathon Smokin’ Red Hot Firehouse benefit for the Rehoboth Beach Fire Department and a new jazz documentary film feature) go to www.trubluejazz.org.

Another joy of being in the Rehoboth area during jazz festival time is being able to dine at awesome restaurants while listening to jazz and blues, often performed by the best of our local musicians. These sets are timed so that festival attendees can jam-pack their jazz groove between afternoon and evening shows, or just come to eat dinner, and listen, and maybe take a stroll on the boardwalk.

One of the best known drummers in the area is Ken Schleifer, who lives in Dagsboro. Since 1989, Schleifer has touched the lives of many of the area’s children as their elementary school band director.

Since retiring, Schleifer’s drumsticks and brushes provide the heartbeat and glue for two new bands, 2nd Time Around and 5th Avenue. In the former he plays with Bob Yesbek (otherwise known as “the Rehoboth Foodie”), who plays the iconic Hammond B-3 organ, and the talented and, some say, underrated Ken Cicerale on alto sax. In 5th Avenue, Schleifer plays with Cicerale and with Ocean View’s Jeff Cooper on stand-up bass.

Schleifer, Yesbek and Cicerale may be the busiest musicians throughout the whole festival.

“We are playing at Indigo, that amazing Indian restaurant, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 9:30,” said Schleifer. “Then we are at Nage for brunch, also on Saturday. On Sunday, we play on the Bandstand from 1 to 3. Then we top off the whole Jazz Fest experience at Java Jukebox for four hours of continuous jazz starting at 6.

“The four of us from both 2nd Time Around and 5th Avenue will be playing. On Monday I’ll be at home, resting!” he said.

Another venue that will be serving jazz is the new upscale wine bar and restaurant Cuvée Ray. For those with nostalgic memories, this restaurant is in the same Rehoboth building that housed the distinctive Sydney’s, also renowned for fine food and jazz. Not surprisingly Sydney Artz has been asked by the new owners to help book top-notch music for their restaurant.

“I’m pleased to have been able to assemble a wonderful series of musicians from Thursday the 11th through Sunday the 14th. Many have local ties, and each night presents a different flavor of jazz, from swing to traditional and funk to Latin,” said Artz.

Some of the artists’ names performing at Cuvée Ray and familiar to area music buffs are Jeff Cooper, Glenn Pearson, Elwood Bishop, Vince Varassi, David Aaman, Mike Shockley and John Ewart.

Café Azafran’s fabulous Holly Lane is another favorite, with her smooth sound and lounge-style classics. Lane is the restaurant’s regular evening bartender… and so much more. Every Thursday, including the 11th, with accompanist John Flynn, she delights the room by performing while pouring her trademark wicked cocktails.

On Oct. 12 and 13 she will perform, but not bartend, with Bob Diener at the restaurant. Additionally, on Sunday, Oct. 14, Lane and Diener will entertain the brunch crowd at SoDel’s Rehoboth location of Bluecoast restaurant, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Chesapeake & Maine is kicking off their off-season Lobster Sunday specials with the indomitable Bryan Russo on vocals and guitar, with trumpeter extraordinaire Jim Miller.

One of the region’s most popular bands, Lower Case Blues, will be on stage at the Rehoboth Ale house on Friday evening, Oct. 12. Then, on Saturday, the band’s lead guitarist, Jake Banaszak, will come together with Elwood Bishop on bass and percussionist Keith Brooks to play at Bethany Blues, starting at 8:30 p.m.

“It’s always fun to collaborate and improvise with different musicians. October in Rehoboth is always a good time!” said Banaszak.

All these restaurants have websites that include their phone numbers, addresses and a complete list of offerings, both culinary and musical.

How fortunate are we to have this quality of live entertainment close by? Take advantage and enjoy.


By Christina Weaver

Special to the Coastal Point